James Castle didn’t fall too far from the tree. He just graduated from college and is launching a mobile game that he built from his friends. The novel thing about that is he’s the son of Louis Castle, the famous cofounder of Westwood Studios and the creator of games like Command & Conquer and Dune II.
The younger Castle’s startup is NewFort Studios, which just launched a mobile puzzle game called Plight. Louis Castle got the project going by funding it and offering the young team an interesting choice: They could work on one of Louis Castle’s ideas for a game, or they could create a game of their choosing with minimal direction from Louis. The team chose the latter, and that’s how they wound up with the sci-fi puzzle game Plight. The game is available now on iOS and Google Play.
In Plight, the human race is struggling in the far future as it lost a war with an alien race. They send a robot down to a planet to re-ignite life on a world that was destroyed and once inhabited by humans. That robot has to move from pylon to pylon, restoring energy and light to the planet. In areas of darkness, the robot can lose its health. So it’s a game where the player has to deal with challenges in the environment and be very aware of light and darkness. The main goal is to get the main pylon lit in order to revitalize the planet.
“I asked my dad for advice when we got stuck in a rut, but for the most part, we ran the show,” James Castle said.
The elder Castle offered some solid device. He advised the team to use “shaders,” a graphics technology that allowed the art style to look much more unique. Louis Castle also suggested “kerning,” or a way of doing the animations that cut down on the amount of artwork that had to be done. He also helped figure out the name. The original idea was to call it Py Light, short for pylon light. Louis Castle suggested they just go with Plight.
“I’m very proud,” said Louis Castle. “It’s a lot of fun to see.”
James Castle said that he wanted to do something with games since he was 5.
“I thought it was so cool that my dad made games,” he said. “I started playing a lot of games. When I got into my teens, I started experimenting with animation.”
He was too young to work at Westwood Studios during its heyday. But he did join Petroglyph Studios, a company that was founded by former Westwood employees. James Castle worked there for three summers and learned a lot of the ropes. He also went to the Rochester Institute of Technology for college, and he studied game design. While there, he met his cofounders: Aaron Fingar, Brett Morris, and Steven Sucy. They worked together on a school project, and then they stayed together to make more games.
Plight started with the idea of pitting a player against the environment. It began as a horror game where there were safe places in the light area and danger lurked in the dark areas. After a while, NewFort Studios got rid of the enemies and made it into a sci-fi puzzle game where the emphasis wasn’t on fighting. The Plight project got started a year ago, and the team created the game during their summer vacation.
“Plight was the first game we wanted to make from start to finish and actually publish,” James Castle said.
Half the team had to return to school while the other half graduated. They had to learn how to launch and market the game, and they spent a lot of time preparing for that day. A few days ago, Plight launched on both iOS and Google Play on a global basis. James Castle said he’s hopeful that people will give it a chance. Plight is more abstract than many games. It has three unique areas, more than 90 hand-crafted levels, and nine hidden secret levels. That’s a lot of hours of gameplay.
James Castle said the project was a good experience. He liked working as an indie developer rather than being part of a big game team because he got to learn all aspects of making a game, from art to game design.